Broccoli, White Beans and Lemons with Red Pepper Flakes

IMG_7917A very HAPPY NEW YEAR to you all. I hope that you saw in the new year in style. I tend to opt for more relaxed, low key affairs on New Years eve so that I can wake feeling as fresh as daisy on the first of January. I am always impressed by those who are able to take part in the Hyde Park New Year’s Day run or those who decide to enter the freezing waters surrounding Britain, which is becoming increasingly more popular as the years roll by. Typically my family go on a good long ramble and play board games in front of the fire. This year we’ll be playing a lot of ‘Pucket’, which was given to me this Christmas. It’s hugely addictive and really good fun and I’ve turned into a little demon playing it, much to the annoyance of my siblings. You can purchase your very own board here.

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As is often the way we all start the year with many good intentions, whether that be to exercise more, drink less, eat more healthily, read more, achieve more (* delete as appropriate) but as the months go by some of our good intentions begin to wane. I thought that I would lend a hand however on the eat more healthily part. I can bet that we’ll be seeing numerous detox diets and health programmes in the papers and magazines this coming weekend. I do think it is good idea to cleanse the body but to bear in mind that it is January and it is cold and therefore we do need those hearty dishes now and again to fill our bellies. Pulses, vegetables and fish is a great way to start off the year and to only eat meat products a couple of times a week – avoiding too much diary is also a sensible way to crack on with the year.

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I thought this recipe would be a great one to kick off the year with as you may already have all the ingredients in your kitchen waiting to be thrown together. It’s incredibly quick to prepare and can be eaten hot or cold, on its own or accompanied by some white fish or a crab cake perhaps. Tasty and packed with goodness, it’s definitely a feel good dish. Helen who runs the website ‘Well-Being Secrets’ has written an in-depth piece on the benefits of broccoli here, which is both fascinating and highly informative, so have a read. I also like Joey Bruno’s, founder of Thrive Cuisine, article here.

For those who had a ridiculously large night and are feeling a little worse for wear, might I suggest the health regime starts tomorrow and you tuck into some of these little beauties instead – see here.

Broccoli, White Beans and Lemons with Red Pepper Flakes

adapted from the December 2013 issue of Bon Appetit Magazine

Serves 4

3 large tbsp of olive oil

4 garlic cloves, finely sliced

3 anchovy fillets packed in oil

1 lemon, washed and finely sliced (pips removed)

225g broccoli, chopped into small florets

5 stems of fresh thyme

2x400g tins of cannellini beans, rinsed

200ml water

salt and pepper

generous pinch of red pepper flakes

2 tbsp parmesan, finely grated (plus a little extra for grating on top)

1. Gently heat the oil in a large deep pan and then add the garlic, lemons and anchovies, stirring occasionally to help break up the anchovies. Cook for 5 minutes before adding the broccoli florets and thyme and stirring into the juices from the lemon.

2. After a further 5 minutes add the cannellini beans and water and stir into the other ingredients. Season with salt and pepper, bring to the boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer allowing the flavours to blend together for a further 5 minutes.

3. Add the parmesan and stir into the ingredients and place a lid on the pan and take off the heat.

4. Turn out onto a serving dish and sprinkle with red pepper flakes (chilli flakes could also be an option here in fact) and an extra scattering of fresh parmesan.

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Broad beans, lemon zest ricotta, fresh mint oil, parma ham with pink peppercorns

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I have been meaning to a write blog post on this recipe for sometime now as I seem to be averaging eating it once a week in the last month or so. It’s one of those recipes that once you’ve prepared it you want to dive in and eat it so I needed to be speedy with the camera work, hence the lack of lots of photos.  It is absolutely perfect for a lunch either by yourself or if you have a few friends coming over. The bright greens and the complimenting flavours of lemon, broad beans, mint, olive oil, garlic, ricotta, parmesan, parma ham and pink peppercorns really appeal to me. The pink peppercorns I managed to source in Turkey last year and they have the most wonderful flavour. Whilst I imagine a quick trip to Turkey may not be realistic you’ll be glad to hear that you can find them at most supermarkets – they are definitely worth seeking out as they have a very distinct flavour – very different from the black variety.

I stumbled across this recipe years ago in Skye Gyngells book ‘A Year in My Kitchen’ and as far as I’m concerned it’s a winning recipe. The only slightly time consuming part is taking the skins off the broad beans – which to be fair does not really take that long, especially if you have a friend to chat to whilst you are sharing the podding together.

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Other than this time, I always prepare the dish with fresh broad beans but for some reason the two places that normally stock them this morning had run out, so I had to suffice with frozen. They tasted equally good, although they were a slightly smaller in size, which made peeling them take a little longer. I reckon if you have a glorious sunny day with friends coming over for lunch this is the perfect dish. To accompany it, a glass of Riesling or ginger cordial would always go down a treat. A great wine merchant called Symposium, based in the picturesque town of Lewes in East Sussex, I always find comes up trumps with recommending great drinkable wines. I’m based in London and they always seem happy to deliver a case or two to me when I am needing to stock up. If you are interested send Henry an email henry@symposium-finewine.co.uk and he’ll send you their wine list.

Broad beans, lemon zest ricotta, fresh mint oil, parma ham with pink peppercorns

Adapted from Skye Gyngell’s book ‘A year in my kitchen’

Serves 4

1kg of fresh broad beans in their pods (or 500g podded/frozen)

250g fresh ricotta

50g parmesan, finely grated

1 lemon, zest and juice

8 slices of parma ham

1 garlic clove

handful of fresh mint

75ml olive oil

pinch of pink peppercorns per serving

sour dough bread (or ciabatta)

1. If using fresh broad beans, take them out of their pods and place into a pan of boiling water for under 1 minute. If you are using frozen broad beans you need to leave them in the boiling water for 3 minutes. Strain and run under cold water immediately and then peel off  the outer shell of the broad beans and discard.

2. Take a large handful of fresh mint and finely chop up all of it bar a few leafs that you will sprinkle over the top at the end. Place the finely chopped mint leaves in a bowl with 75ml of olive oil and leave to infuse for 15 minutes or longer.

3. Place the ricotta into a bowl and add the finely grated parmesan. Stir together and then add most of the zest from one lemon – the remaining zest you will sprinkle on the dish at the end. Add the juice from half a lemon.  Stir in all together and leave to one side.

4. In a preheated oven – 180 degrees – place the parma ham on baking parchment with a drizzle of olive oil and black pepper. Leave to crisp up in the oven for 10 minutes.

5. Slice some sourdough bread and place in the toaster or under a grill for it to become golden. Once toasted cover with a little olive oil and fresh garlic.  Place on a serving plate.

6. Add a spoonful or two of the  lemony ricotta/parmesan to the toast. Add a scattering of broad beans followed by some mint drizzle and then lay two slices of parma ham over the creation followed by some of the remaining lemon zest, fresh mint leaves and a good pinch or two of pink peppercorns. I find that no salt is necessary as the parma ham and parmesan more than make up for the lack of salt.

Eat at room temperature.

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